Anne Martinez at GoCertify.com has posted an interesting video from Pearson VUE that shows how certification exam candidates will be screened upon entry to one of that company’s testing centers. After reviewing testing rules, candidates must go through an admissions process. This starts with two forms of ID, including one government-issued ID with photo, then you’ll sign your name on a digital signature pad. Then you’ll provide a digital fingerprint, and a palm vein scan for biometric identity check. Then your photograph will be taken, and all the data securely stored with exam information — and eventually, exam results — at Pearson-VUE HQ.
You’ll be assigned a locker where you can store all your personal effects (nothing goes into the testing room with you, except what Pearson issues to you). Your palm will be scanned again before you enter the testing room. Your hand will be scanned each time you leave the testing room, and whenever you return from a break. You will also be under video surveillance during the entire testing period.
Get used to a highly controlled and highly monitored test experience. Check out the video: “Testing at Pearson-VUE: Biometric Check-In Overview.” Very interesting!
MCCC stands for Microsoft Certified Career Conference, and it’s up on March 14 and 15, 2012. And as with all the previous such conferences, I’m volunteering as a presenter for that event. It’s free, and open for online registration to the Internet public (this means YOU), so do yourself a favor: go ahead and REGISTER!
The agenda for this event is still coming together, but I can tell you this much:
- Steven Rose will do the keynote on the topic of “Building the brand of YOU!”
- MS Learning Academic Lead Jeff Johnson and I will be reprising our “Certification in Academia” presentation with new case studies and examples, and I will even wax eloquent about my experience teaching MS cert classes at Austin Community College.
- I will also be presenting on non-Microsoft cloud-related certifications in a session entitled (appropriately enough) “Other Cloud Certifications,” in which I’ll cover offerings from VMware, IBM, Oracle/Sun, RackSpace/CloudU, CompTIA, and more.
If you’re considering any kind of Microsoft certification these days, this is one event you won’t want to miss. This goes double for recent or pending college graduates, as the content for this shindig is heavily oriented in YOUR direction. Hope to see you there. Here’s the MCCC registration link, one more time.
I got a nice, short phone call from Andy Gremett, Senior Manager of Product Marketing at Cisco Learning yesterday. This morning, the company will announce changes to its CCNA Security and CCNP Security exams, to reflect changes in the technology base and the threat landscape since the last time these credentials were updated in 2009-2010. Andy also informed me that their job task analyses indicate that CCNA Security and CCNP Security holders are migrating from job responsibilities that split their efforts between routine networking (switch, router, infrastructure stuff) and security networking (firewalls, VPNs, security monitor and audit, and other security stuff) to job responsibilities that focus primarily on the security stuff just mentioned. In fact, the ratio has shifted from about 46% security to nearly 80% security in just the last little while.
Home page logos for CCNA Security, CCNP Security, Security Specializations
New technologies and challenges include increasing proliferation of mobile devices and apps, wider use of collaboration and social media, large-scale migration of data into the cloud, nearly ubiquitous use of virtualization, and an ever more pervasive and nasty collection of malware threats and attack vectors. No wonder these credentials were due for a refresh–perhaps it’s not out of line to even call these changes “increased hardening!”
The updated CCNA Security exam (IINS: Implementing Cisco IOS Network Security) will be released today with Exam ID 640-554. Its predecessor, 640-553, will remain live until 9/30/2012, so that those already studying for that particular exam can still take it. The VPN and Firewall exams for CCNP Security will likewise be updated (firewall exam 642-617 is being superseded by exam 642-618, and the former remains live until 5/28/2012; VPN exam 642-647 is being superseded by exam 642-648, and also expires on 5/28/2012). Because these exams are also the focus for the Cisco Firewall Security Specialist and Cisco VPN Security Specialist certifications, respectively, those credentials are also under the same retire-and-replace regime as well.
“Out with the old, and in with the new,” is ever the way it is with technology certs in general, and security certs in particular. That’s because keeping up with the threat landscape and new technologies is an important key to maintaining a proper security posture!
To keep up with what I sometimes call the “cert biz” I read LOTS of blogs and newsletters. So when the latest Global Knowledge newsletter hit my inbox last Thursday (2/23/2012) I perked up a bit to see the following story headline “15 Top Paying IT Certifications for 2012.”
My initial interpretation of this story’s headline led me to expect that the highest-paying certs would be included in this round-up. And in fact some of those credentials are indeed present in their list — most notably the PMP (Project Management Professional) and the CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional) certs.
The report cited in the story comes from Global Knowledge’s own “annual IT Skills and Salary survey.” That story also includes the following prefatory remark as its second paragraph:
Note: The rankings below are based on certifications that received the minimum 200 responses required to derive a salary figure that is statically accurate. There are certifications that pay more that are not represented due to their exclusive nature. These include CCIE: Cisco Certified Internetworking Expert and VCDX: VMware Certified Design Expert, for example.
Hmmm. I assume “statically” is a mistake, and probably should read “statistically.” Interesting that Randy Muller, the story’s author, does not provide the overall sample size and its statistical characteristics, nor does he explain how he arrived at the 200 number necessary to achieve statistical significance. I understand where he’s coming from — namely, “the Law or Large Numbers” which essentially states that “…as the number of samples increases, the average of these samples is likely to reach the mean of the whole population” (source: Investopedia). The idea is you have to have some number of responses before averaging them bears any relationship to reality.
Nevertheless, the Note quoted above does recognize that there are other “…certifications that pay more that are not represented due to their exclusive nature.” That means “for which 200 responses were not received” as I take it. To his mention of CCIE and VCDX, I would also add the Cisco Certified Architect, the various SAP R/3 credentials, Microsoft’s Certified Master (MCM) and Certified Architect (MCA) — and lots of other architect-level certifications in general — plus such niche credentials as the Wireshark Certified Network Analyst, the GIAC Security Expert (GSE), and so on and so forth.
The survey reports on 15 top-paying certs, not THE Top 15 certs by pay. Big difference, and important to keep in mind when deciding whether or not to follow the fairly sizable herd of responses (15 certs times a minimum of 200 for each one indicates a sample size larger than the 3,000 respondents required to include them, not accounting for individuals who hold 2 or more of those credentials) being tracked and analyzed.
The full name of the new CompTIA Storage+ exam and credential is Storage+ Powered by SNIA (the Storage Networking Industry Association, a non-profit devoted to storage networking and related technologies, teamed up with CompTIA to develop this credential). Thus, when the Storage+ went live on January 18, 2012, the SNIA’s own entry-level credential known as the SNIA Certified Networking Professional, or SCNP, was retired. In every conceivable way, SNIA and CompTIA want prospective storage professionals to pursue the Storage+ as their first stepping stone into storage networking certification.
Beyond the entry-level Storage+, however, SNIA still has a lot to offer:
- The SNIA Certified Storage Engineer (SCSE) is for those who “…provide day-to-day management of a storage network environment.”
- The SNIA Certified Storage Architect (SCSA) is for whose who assess, plan, and design storage networks.
- The SNIA Certified Storage Networking Expert (SCSE) requires digging earning the SCSA, then digging into a variety of third-party exams from the likes of NetApp, Hitachi Data Systems, Cisco, EMC, HP, or Brocade to demonstrate competency with vendor-specific systems and environments.
In addition to the third parties already mentioned under the SCSE entry above, companies such as Dell, IBM, VMWare, Oracle, Red Hat, and others also offer IT certifications that focus on or provide substantial coverage of storage networking technologies. For more information see also my Tom’s IT Pro article “Top 5 Storage Certifications.”
[Update added 2/22/2012 8:53 AM: Our annual certification rating and ranking gets its update on PearsonITCertification.com. Be sure to check it out!]
In casting about for a blog topic this weekend, I came across an interesting press release amongst recent CompTIA offerings in that genre. It’s entitled “Poor Information on Career Opportunities is Costing Students Jobs.” If I understand it correctly it reports on a recent CompTIA survey that indicates that “respondents … want schools and universities to do a lot more to help them understand career options…” including
- “… information integrated into school lessons about what careers different subjects can lead to”
- “… information about careers other than those directly related to their field of study”
- “… better careers advice at school or university”
Please note that this PR ditty was posted in London, so you are seeing some Britishisms in the copy, which I reproduce verbatim in the preceding quotes.
This actually raises an interesting issue–namely, to what extent an educational institution should be responsible for informing students about career opitions and even helping those students find their way into gainful employment. I always thought academia was called “the ivory tower” in part because it remained indifferent to and unsullied by such concerns, and also because its interests were very often elsewhere: pure research, advancing the general body of knowledge, imparting learning skills and knowledge to students, and so forth.
Certainly, I think the educational institutions should be mindful of real-world and employment consequences for their students, but I don’t believe it’s entirely fair to shackle them with outright responsibility for steering them into the workforce and helping them find jobs. But certainly, some kinds of institutions — particularly community colleges and trade schools — are chartered with a role in workforce preparation for their students and these players probably should take a more active role in laying out employment consequences and real-world options and choices. Many of them already do.
But I don’t think it’s fair to hold education responsible for this kind of thing. Rather, I think it is reasonable to ask educators to pay attention to these issues and to address them to some extent in their teaching, but it shouldn’t be a primary focus in that work (that belongs to the subject matter at hand, and in making sure students understand them, and know how to apply their knowledge to real-world situations).
As I think back on my own path through higher education, and look at how friends and family in my parent’s generation, my generation, and my children’s generation have worked themselves from school into work, I see a lot of forces at work. Certainly, those who pay for education — family and the person receiving the education — shoulder the biggest responsibilities in making sure an investment in learning delivers appropriate opportunities and a reasonable payoff. Students also choose particular individuals as examples or mentors, and will often turn to them for advice about what to study, what kind of work to pursue, and where and how to find a job.
I do believe it would be helpful for educational institutions to be mindful that a productive working life should be part of the post-graduate payoff for their students, and to do their part in helping them attain this reasonable and laudable goal. But there are a lot more players in this game than the schools, and it’s a mistake to put too much of the information delivery and responsibility into their hands.
Well, I don’t think we’re quite ready for what Alan Greenspan described as “irrational exuberance” back during the dotcom boom just yet, but things do seem to be looking up for the economy as a whole, and for IT employment in particular. According to the Wall Street Journal yesterday “Jobless Claims Hit Lowest level Since 2008” with an additional reduction of 13,000 first-time unemployment claims to a total of 348,000 last week. In fact, this is the first time since the financial meltdown of 2008 that claims have been lower than they were before the meltdown occurred (levels now match those from early March of that year, before the meltdown really got underway).
On the employment front, my local NPR affiliate ( KUT.org ) reported this morning that “It’s a Seller’s Market for Tech Workers in Austin.” The gist of this story is that demand for programming talent in my home area is so high that even with numerous local colleges and universities to provide graduates, recruiters and hiring managers are busily involved in a nationwide hunt for programming talent. UT Austin, St. Edwards, Concordia College, and Austin Community College, among others in Central Texas, all report record enrollment and graduation rates for coders for their two- and four-year degrees, and where applicable, in graduate programs as well. Even so, recruiters report that they can’t satisfy demand purely from local supply.
They’re finding high demand for programming staff all over the country, which is why I’m talking about a local news item to a national and international audience. To my astonishment, the story also cited starting salaries for recent grads as $70K per year or higher, with some salaries reaching into the low six figures. Now that’s what I call “economic improvement!” Let’s hope that this phenomenon bleeds over into other areas of IT, and that we’ll see a rising tide for the whole field as 2012 wears on.
On January 23, I posted a blog about the free two-day online prep class that Microsoft was offering to help candidates prepare for its new Private Cloud certification, scheduled for next week (February 21-22). The sign-up was so ferocious — over 4,000 interested IT professionals took advantage of the offer! — that another free session covering the same curriculum and material is now on offer for April 3-4, 2012.
Given the incredible demand for this material, I don’t think it’s over-reaching to believe that Microsoft has a runaway success on its hands, certification-wise. Of course, with anything and everything cloud-related so very white-hot right now, that’s not a huge stretch anyway.
Read the details in the “Register Now!” post on the Born to Learn blog, or simply register right now! I just did myself.
Every now and then, I run across a networking teaching tool that’s either extremely helpful or amazingly innovative. Even more rarely, there’s an element of fun involved. You’ll find all this, and more in the Cisco Learning Center with “The Subnet game.”
As you play your way through the game, you advance in levels, and you are presented with increasingly interesting and more challenging problems. It’s a great way to practice IP addressing and subnetting skills, and pretty good fun into the bargain. And beyond the need to register with this site, it’s free!
You can also use this as a tool to assess your “inner nerd.” If you can’t stop playing, and suddently find “real work” a distraction from playing The Subnet Game, guess what? Your IN index is pretty high!
Another iteration of the Microsoft Certified Career Conference (aka MCCC) — that two-day, free-wheeling, multi-tracked educational and career tuneup online extravaganza — is back on! It will be held online for two half-days (12 hour-long segments, that is) on March 14 and 15, 2012. Check out the MCCC home page for details, where you’ll also find a link to register for this free event.
I don’t know yet what time that Wednesday (March 14, that is) that Jeff and I will be presenting, but that’s the day that both of us are available, and we should be finding out soon. Jeff is the Academic Area Lead for MS Learning’s IT Academy in North America, and has also taught at the college level (as have I, as an adjunct faculty member for Austin Community College) as well.
The last time we did this, we talked about how various academic IT programs (including Information Technology, Computer Science, Management Information Systems, and other certificate and degree plans) have started to include and incorporate IT certification materials and coverage into their curricula. This time, we’ll do more of the same, but feature more and different schools and programs. We also plan to expland our coverage of community college-based offerings, because that is where the biggest population of prospective IT workers can find affordable training and certification coverage nowadays.
All in all, it promises to be an interesting session, and I hope you’ll not only join us when we present (stay tuned for details) but will also tune in on the whole MCCC as well. I’ve helped out with three of them now, and they’ve always been informative, interesting, and a lot of fun.